The Military said Monday troops would be on high alert to foil possible attempts by terrorist groups to ride on the reported death of Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi over the weekend.
READ: IS supremo dead—Trump
“Our troops in the frontlines remain on high alert to thwart possible attempts to ride on this development,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said, after the United States reported Baghdadi’s death in an American commando raid in Syria.
Western Mindanao Commander Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said strict security measures are being enforced in urban centers, public areas and military installations, which may likely targets of the terrorists.
“We are monitoring any (terrorist) hostile plans, to include their supposed lairs... They might target urban centers, places of convergence and of course military bases, detachments, company headquarters, battalion headquarters and brigade headquarters, so all of these are being advised to increase the level of vigilance,” Sobejana said.
The elusive ISIS commander was killed during a U.S. military operation
somewhere in Syria Sunday.
At least seven foreign terrorist operatives believed to be in the company of local terrorist groups---Abu Sayyaf, Daulah Islamiyah-Toraype and remnants of the Maute group, remain on the military’s radar.
“We are on alert. The first order I had was to issue a directive to all units within the Western Mindanao Command to intensify their intelligence operations, and monitor the hostile plans of the ISIS-inspired group in the area,” Sobejana said.
Foreign terrorist operating in Mindanao had pulled off at least four suicide bombing sorties this year, with the worst being the one in Nount Carmel Cathedralm which left more than 20 people dead.
Sobejana said the death of Bhagdadi has a demoralizing effect on its rank because it created a very big vaccum on its leadership. However, he is not that prominent among local leaders of ISIS-allied groups in the country.
AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo played down the possibility of any sympathy attacks from ISIS.
“If they are to conduct any terrorist atrocity, it will not be for that reason, but we are ready to combat any eventuality,” Arevalo said.
Arevalo said the death of Baghdadi was a severe blow on terrorist organizations around the globe.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzanam on the other hand, said Baghdadi’s death would only be a “momentary setback” because of the depth of his terror group around the globe.
“Somebody will take his place to lead the ISIS. Maybe not as famous and well known,” he said.
The Palace welcomed the death of Baghdadi but added that “the death of the leader does not mean the extinction of their group.”
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said ISIS was already in Mindanao, saying the extremist group was “everywhere.”
At its height, Islamic State controlled swaths of Iraq and Syria in a self-declared state known as a caliphate.
READ: IS head Baghdadi believed dead
The group planned or inspired terrorism attacks across Europe, while using expertise in social media to lure large numbers of foreign volunteers.
Long pursued by the US-led coalition against IS, Baghdadi has been erroneously reported dead several times in recent years.
The US State Department had posted a $25 million reward for information on his whereabouts.
Baghdadi left behind a horrific trail of beheadings, mass executions, rapes, abductions and ethnic cleansing in his five years as the self-proclaimed “caliph” of Iraq and Syria.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the death of Baghdadi marked a turning point in the fight against terrorism.
Iran, on the other hand, warned that this was not the end of the Islamic State group.
“Baghdadi’s death is not the end of fighting Deash terrorism but just the end of a chapter,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei said in a tweet.
“(IS terrorism) is still growing and evident. Growing via American policies and regional petrodollars, and evident in takfiri (Sunni Muslim extremist) ideology. These three sources must be extinguished,” he added.
A Russian defense official said they did not have reliable information about Baghdadi’s death.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron said Baghdadi’s death was just a stage.
“The fight will continue with our partners in the international coalition to ensure that the terror organization is definitively defeated. It is our priority.” – With AFP